Early Pregnancy Symptoms You May Experience
Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy
June 22, 2021

Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy

Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy .
Photo by @msvaniarios
Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy

The two-week wait. Yep, there really is a term for that time between when you conceive (or potentially conceive) and when you can find out whether or not you’re actually pregnant by taking a pregnancy test (or getting your period).

During those two weeks, you’re often wondering if every twinge and sensation could possibly mean you’re pregnant. And really, they could. Here are the most common first signs of pregnancy.

How Early Can You Get Pregnancy Symptoms?

It’s not instant. In fact, it can take a while before early pregnancy symptoms appear, and every body is different. Some pregnant people swear they felt “different” a week or two after conception but others won’t feel early pregnancy symptoms for a couple of months.

This (typical but not hard-and-fast) timeline of events helps paint a clearer picture of when first signs of pregnancy tend to make their debut:

  • Week 1: The period. If you conceive this month, your pregnancy will be counted from the first day of your last period. (That’s right—in the medical community a pregnancy is counted from before a person is actually pregnant. Here’s a primer for how to count your pregnancy weeks.)
  • Week 2: Conception. At the end of the week (around day 14 of your cycle) is when sperm meets egg but there’s a lot that still needs to happen before you’re officially pregnant.
  • Week 3: The journey. The little fertilized blastocyst (technical term for fertilized egg) has to journey from the fallopian tube to the uterus to make its home there, so while it’s super busy this week, you may not feel any different.
  • Week 4: Implantation. Implantation is the time when the fertilized egg successfully attaches and implants into the lining of the uterine wall. [Implantation] can have a few possible symptoms—usually cramping or light bleeding. Most people may not notice any symptoms of implantation at all, though. “Implantation usually has no symptoms but can be associated with [some] spotting,” explains Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG, OBGYN. “The spotting is usually just a little and lasts a few days at the most,” she says.
  • 5 weeks pregnant: Congrats, you’re pregnant! This is when you miss your period. Now there’s probably enough of the pregnancy hormone hCG in the system to be picked up by a home pregnancy test to get that big fat plus sign. As hCG levels rise, it can cause early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue.
  • 6 weeks pregnant to 8 weeks pregnant: Early pregnancy symptoms begin for most. At this point, hCG levels are doubling about every 72 hours, so most pregnant people are probably starting to feel something different. In one study, about half of pregnant people started feeling early pregnancy symptoms by the beginning of 6 weeks pregnant, and 89% of them felt them by the end of 8 weeks pregnant.
  • 8 weeks pregnant to 11 weeks pregnant: Early pregnancy symptom overload! This is when hCG levels are highest, so you may feel pretty miserable. Get through these weeks, and you’ll probably be done with the worst of early pregnancy symptoms.

Like with everything in pregnancy, every body is different, so the above timeline might not be exact for you, especially if you don’t have a 28-day menstrual cycle. Or, you may not feel any early pregnancy symptoms at all. That’s okay too.

What are Early Pregnancy Symptoms?

So now back to the real reason you’re here: what are the most common early pregnancy symptoms? And can you know before a pregnancy test? Well, sometimes, but you can’t always be totally sure. But, if you’re feeling any of the following symptoms, it could be a first sign of pregnancy.

Nausea

According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 25 percent of women say nausea was their first sign of pregnancy. Also known as morning sickness, this symptom can be feel like just a churning tummy, the beginnings of food aversions, or it can be full-on vomiting.

Breast changes

You may notice your breasts change pretty darn early—as little as a week or two after you conceive. They may get sore or swollen (hands off!), and some people’s nipples get darker as a first sign of pregnancy too. Blame the hormones progesterone and estrogen, as well as increased blood flow, for these early pregnancy symptoms.

“For breast tenderness, I recommend making sure your bra is fitting you well and is supportive,” notes Dr. Yamaguchi. “However,” she cautions, “don’t buy too many bras [at once] since you will likely go through several sizes throughout the course of your pregnancy and postpartum, especially if you are [planning on] breastfeeding.”

Fatigue

It’s normal to feel a little like you’ve been hit by a truck during early pregnancy, thanks to increased blood flow and your body getting used to all those hormones. Out-of-character tiredness is many people’s first clue they’re expecting. This is a cue for you to take it easy. “There is not a lot you can do about fatigue other than rest,” explains Dr. Yamaguchi.

Spotting

As mentioned above, implantation can cause a bit of spotting (dubbed “implantation bleeding”) about six to 12 days after conception, which makes it a super early pregnancy symptom. It could get confused with the beginning of your period, but implantation bleeding has some distinct differences: it’s more like spotting or light bleeding—implantation bleeding wouldn’t be enough to fill a pad or a tampon. And it’s usually light pink or brownish, not bright or dark red. Plus, this early sign of pregnancy usually happens sooner in your cycle than a period typically would.

Cramps

Implantation can also cause a bit of cramping because the uterus is stretching, and the cramps may come along with spotting or not. You may or may not notice this early pregnancy symptom, since it tends not to be as strong or as severe as period cramps.

Mood swings

Between the fatigue and all the other early pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing, you may catch yourself sobbing uncontrollably or getting irrationally angry and realize it’s an early sign of pregnancy. Totally normal. The sudden onset of hormones typically trigger these mood swings.

Headaches

The increase in blood volume can create headaches in those first few weeks. Drink plenty of water, and know that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually considered safe to take during pregnancy. But, as Dr. Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG and Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals reminds us: “Medications in pregnancy should be cleared with your health provider as there may be meds that are contraindicated in pregnancy.” So, always check with your healthcare provider before taking any kind of medication, especially if you’re trying to conceive.

Backaches

Your cramping may not feel exactly like cramps but more like lower back pain. Like with headaches, be cautious of your water intake and make sure you’re getting enough rest; your body is super busy on the inside.

“It is really essential to listen to your body those early weeks and rest as needed,” Ana Genao-Tanney, antenatal and postpartum doula, tells us. “This can mean naps throughout the day or getting to bed early each night and just avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous activities.”

Peeing often

Pretty early on, a pregnant person’s kidneys start working overtime, and you might find yourself heading to the bathroom more often than normal. Totally an unexpected early pregnancy symptom. Maybe you thought this would come later, with a bigger belly—it will, but it might happen now too.

Cravings

Maybe your body is simply craving more carbs to keep growing that baby or to give you more energy because you’re so damn tired. Either way, you may have a sudden hankering for some…um…unique or different foods as an early pregnancy symptom (olives for breakfast, anyone?).

Food aversions

On the other hand, you might not be able to handle the sight or smell of certain foods, even former faves. Food aversions go hand-in-hand with morning sickness—when you’re nauseated, strong smells can set you over the edge. If there are any foods setting you off, steer clear. “The best thing to do is to eat small frequent meals that are not greasy or spicy” in order to manage nausea, vomiting and food aversions,” explains Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, OBGYN.

Bloating

Increased progesterone can slow down your digestion and make it harder than usual to zip your jeans.

Constipation

Speaking of slowed digestion—you might be totally stopped up. This early sign of pregnancy is not fun, but it may clue you into the fact that you’re expecting. Staying hydrated and eating fiber-rich foods, like dried fruit, can help.

Of course, the confusing part is that some of these early pregnancy symptoms can also be signs of a common illness or part of PMS, so listen to your body, and try to be patient. (Easier said than done, we know.) Some pregnancy tests are pretty accurate starting the day after your first missed period, so try to wait until then to take a pregnancy test and go from there.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms with Twins

Wondering if there could be twins in there? Usually women who are pregnant with twins (or more) find out at the first ultrasound appointment—often around 8 weeks pregnant—when the doctor sees two sacs. Before that, though, there are some early pregnancy symptoms that could signal that there is more than one baby in there.

  • Elevated hCG level: A pregnancy blood test is more sensitive than a urine test. It doesn’t just tell you “pregnant” or “not,” it gives your doctor an actual hCG level. And if yours is higher than usual for a woman as far along as you are, it could be an early sign of pregnancy with twins.
  • Early ‘showing’ or weight gain: Twin parents sometimes will show earlier or have a bigger bump than people with just one bun in the oven will.
  • Stronger early pregnancy symptoms: A higher hCG level can sometimes mean more severe morning sickness or fatigue. In fact, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)—a pregnancy condition characterized by debilitating nausea and vomiting—is more common in twin and multiples pregnancies.

There’s no way to know for sure your early pregnancy symptoms mean you’re carrying twins or other multiples. The only definite way to tell is to see it on the ultrasound screen—and what a sweet surprise that is!

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Weird Early Pregnancy Symptoms

We polled moms, and here are their weirdest first signs of pregnancy. All of these early pregnancy symptoms started before they even took a pregnancy test.

As we mentioned, though, every body is different, and it’s important to not weigh your pregnancy against someone else’s. “Don’t compare yourself to other people,” says Dr. Yamaguchi, “for some people [pregnancy is] easy and for some people it’s hard. Cut yourself a break sometimes.” You’re doing your best.

  • Taste of metal: “I had a metallic taste in my mouth, like I was chewing on a tin foil gum wrapper!” —Shannon
  • Extra sappy: “I cried hysterically watching a Superman trailer where he saves a school bus of kids.” —Erica
  • ‘Dog nose’: “I thought wine smelled like yeast and basically had a dog nose for anything and everything. That was not a fun early pregnancy symptom on the subways in August and September!” —Amy
  • New preferences: “All the food I ate needed hot sauce because it wasn’t spicy enough, and all my drinks needed ice—including milk.” —Jennifer
  • Fluttery feeling: “I had butterflies in my tummy! I knew I was pregnant before the test did!” —Jené
  • Dry skin: “My first sign of pregnancy was that my skin was super itchy. Even though I live in Vegas, the only time I lotion my full body daily is when I’m pregnant. When I had to ask my husband to lotion my back, I suspected I was pregnant the second time.” —Carrie
  • No java: “Insomnia and an aversion to coffee were my first signs of pregnancy.” -Melissa
  • Super-sensitive sense of smell: “Within days of getting pregnant with my first baby, my sense of smell was really intensified, and for some reason, the smell of bananas drove me nuts. It was so overpowering. One banana in the kitchen would takeover the whole house to me. The second time around, literally 24 hours after I got pregnant, I got home from work, walked in the door and could smell the banana in the kitchen. Instantly I knew!” —Michaelann
  • Irregular heartbeat: “I had heart palpitations right away with all of my pregnancies.” —Mandy

These are just some of the early pregnancy symptoms women experience—but remember, each pregnancy is unique, and you may not experience any first signs of pregnancy—or you may end up with all of them!

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